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Using Art to Calm Anxiety

I think I am not alone in saying the past couple years have been very anxiety provoking! Years ago, I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder and Depression. I have largely overcome those, to the extent one can, by way of therapy, medication and 2 of my own personal favorite coping mechanisms- animals and art!

I wanted to take some time talking about how anyone can use art to soothe anxiety. There is something about focusing on a small area, using color and allowing yourself to be 'free' with just playing, that is a great stress reliever. In fact, that is percisely the path I took to be an artist. Many years ago I was in therapy recovering from PTSD due to childhood trauma. My anxiety was sky high and nothing relieved it until I picked up some colored pencils and began to drawn flowers. I found some relief. I played around with different mediums and eventually began painting. I found more relief. Pets and animals have always been a favorite art subject of mine ever since early school days when I was without a horse but 100% obsessed! I eventually found a new identity in seeing myself as an artist and so my pet portrait 'career' began. I always loved to draw but middle school art class was my last art instruction and it fell to the wayside when life became more complicated. How I wish I knew then what I know now about art and its healing effects but am grateful to have found it, even if it was later in life.

One benefit I believe of being self taught, is you can create without the pressures of performing or perfectionism. For the purpose of anxiety relifef, perfectionism, performing, or anything else that focuses on the end result should be put on the back burner, if at all possible. For now, let's concentrate on the process! Do your art activity for the sheer enjoyment of whatever aspect of the process you really enjoy ~ ex. lines, color, spontanety, texture- the mere fact of working with your hands, playing with clay for example, can be incredibly soothing and relaxing. Do it as long as it is of benefit to you. Keep it , frame it, throw it away or paint over it. Just don't be critical. If you do nothing but scribble with a crayon (I have!!) and it felt good, that is good enough! Finger painting is a great way to break out of a perfectionistic mindset. It is impossible to concentrate on details with finger paint! Watercolor washes* are another great way to do an art activity that does not tend to bring out the perfectionism in someone.

I have included links below to other blog posts that relate to this subject. Also stop by my DIY YouTube channel / blog psots. I try to find easy to do art activities with easy to find materials. Paper clay is a great, economical, tactile activity for all ages.

* watercolor wash: wet watercolor paper, with the biggest brush you have and while paper is still wet, brush broad strokes across the paper. You can choose colors that go from light to dark of the same shade for example. Or alternate different colors you like and watch them blend in the places the paint touches or overlaps. Or do it however you enjoy. :)


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